You launched your brand a few seasons/ years ago, gained popularity in your country, have a solid group of loyal customers who come to you for their wardrobe needs and wants. You get great PR, your runway shows are well attended and covered by key media in your country, you may even have gotten a few mentions by major international publications or blogs. Where do you go forward from here? How do you capitalize on your experience, clear vision of the brand essence and aesthetic? What’s a way to a more sustainable business model? Do you go to trade shows to see if you can get some orders, or maybe to PR agencies to try and get your dresses worn by celebrities or featured in French Vogue? Do you send out press-releases to media houses, do you deliver brand presentations to buyers?
In our many travels and meetings with designers in various countries, we’ve come to realize how little information designers have about running their brand as a business. And what’s even more challenging, about taking their business from a relative comfort point to a commercially sustainable and successful operation.
Lack of information and detailed analysis often leads to the choice of less than effective methods to grow business. Trial and error seems to be a common approach to market expansion. While this path would obviously provide you with good experience, it may be a bit costly and will definitely take too long before you get to the right conclusions. More costly yet, could be cooperation with opportunistic “industry professionals” – we hear ghastly stories about showrooms which never show your clothes, agents, who do not return samples. Another common first step is a naive belief that a friend of a friend of someone’s hairdresser would be happy to give your samples to a Barney’s buyer. There’s got to be a better way.
Since we started this business in the US, we relied only on hard work and analysis. Being relatively new to the US fashion industry, we did not take anything for granted, even our best judgement. If we needed advice, we turned to the best people in the field, if we needed to know whether the brand will sell – we went directly to buyers and asked them what they thought. We believe that a starting point in your decision whether or not to enter a certain new market should be detailed analysis of buyer feedback. We cannot underestimate how important it is to get your collection in front of the buyers. In deciding where to take your brand, you need to know who your customer is and what they want. Even big brands these days are becoming increasingly market-savvy, analyzing trends, going on the sales floor to see what moves their customer. Here is a quote from Michael Kors, a master of American luxe sportswear: “Great designers know their customers and understand how they live.”
So, our advice – stay true to who you are, know your customer, and whatever you do, do not get dazzled by name-dropping and other glitzy stuff, work only with professionals!
About The Author: BridgeShowroom
Ken Nachbar is a co-founder and partner in Bridge Showroom. Ken loves working with designers, helping them open new doors, find new customers, and grow their businesses. With bachelor's degree in economics and an MBA from the University of Michigan, Ken combines 25 years of management skill and experience with his passion for fashion.
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